Most peoplewould agree that the internet plays an increasingly important role in oureveryday lives. As a result, any change that impacts the regulation of theinternet quickly becomes a newsworthy topic. Groundwork Generally, theterm “net neutrality” is the principle that service providers must refrain fromtreating traffic on the internet differently.
Regardless of whether a user isstreaming video or posting pictures, service providers must not block ordiscriminate against content or applications. The FederalCommunications Commission (FCC)net neutrality regulations were passed in 2015 during the Obamaadministration. The goal of the regulations was to ensure the internet remain openand fair. On February 26, 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality byreclassifying broadband as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The purpose of the rules was to preservethe Internet as an open platform enabling consumer choice, freedom ofexpression, end-user control, competition, and the freedom to innovate withoutpermission.
Essentially, the FCC elected to regulate broadband service as a publicutility. In accordancewith the regulations, internet service providers were prohibited from discriminatingagainst online content. More specifically, internet service providers were notallowed to regulate traffic from specific websites or put their own content atan advantage over rivals. This made intentionally speeding up or slowing downtraffic from specific websites or illegal. For instance, AT&T could not slowdown a service like Netflix to put its own streaming video service at anadvantage, nor could it force Hulu to pay more money to receive faster streamingspeeds. The RepealIn a victory forinternet service providers all over the United States like Comcast, Verizon,and AT&T, the FCC voted to repeal the regulations past in 2015 thatprevented broadband companies from blocking or slowing down access to websitesor services.
At its monthlymeeting on December 14, 2017, and despite widespread opposition and a requestfrom 18 state attorneys general to delay the vote, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai,who was appointed by President Donald trump moved forward with the vote. In a3-2 vote, the repeal proposal passed, removing the net neutrality regulationsput in place just two years ago. This vote eliminatesthe regulations banning internet providers from blocking or slowing down onlinecontent.
Thus, Comcast, for instance, can now charge customers who use Netflixan extra for using so much bandwidth; AT&T can, in theory, decide to blockaccess to some websites entirely; or Verizon, which owns HuffPost’s parentCompany Oath, could hypothetically decide wireless customers won’t be chargeddata when they’re viewing HuffPost content. The FCC has also eliminated the regulationbarring internet providers from prioritizing their own content. Without theprohibition on these activities, internet providers must openly disclose any examplesof blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization.
Whether the actions are illegalor not will be based on whether the activity is anti-competitive. In addition torepealing the net neutrality regulations, the new FCC rules also strip stateand local governments of the power to enact their own laws regulating thebroadband service. How Wil Repealing Net Neutrality Affectthe ConsumerFirst, it iscritical to understand that the consumer will not notice an immediatedifference in the internet now that the FCC has voted to repeal theregulations. The FCC’s repeal must first be published in the Federal Registerbefore it can go into effect, which is not likely to happen until early 2018.However, it is unlikely that your internet experience will be instantlydifferent than it was before the appeal. Any changes tobe implemented are likely to happen over time as companies begin to changebusiness models and services. Although services like Netflix and Hulu will notdisappear overnight, advocates for net neutrality worry how the repeal mayimpact the new, younger services.
Jump-start companies may struggle to contractwith internet service providers and pay to have their content delivered. Thiscould fundamentally alter the future internet setup and the market as a whole. It is importantto recognize that the repeal could change how customers are billed for theservices they use. Without net neutrality, internet providers are now legallyable to pursue similar offers more assertively. What is Next?Supporters ofnet neutrality have long argued that, without these rules, internet providerswill be able to control traffic in all kinds of anti-competitive ways. Supportershave pledged to continue the fight in court. After the FCC publishes the repealorder in the Federal Register in early 2018, we can expect lawsuits to be filed.